The Croup

Frosted Field by Richard Reeve

The lungs and the larynx

so weakened by the delivery

that at ten years old

I was the kid

seated in the back corner

of the classroom

sounding off in triplets,

a wheezing cough

you might mistake

for emphysema,

disrupting the class

till I’d be sent on silly errands

so the other kids could try to focus

on their lessons.

Often it was to give the janitor

a message, Mr. Mercury,

a retiree that carved walking sticks

out of maple saplings, the root balls

providing provocative crowns

to each of his staffs.

He’d let me handle his pocket knife

and work along some roughness

he had yet to attend to.

Till this day, he defines for me

kindness and care,

and has continued as my guide

for what it means to be human.